I use some version of this short-medium-long format for all of my athletes depending on who they are, what they’re training for, and where they are in a training block. This hill workout is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one and there’s probably a place for it in your program.
We’re nearing the end of cross-country season here in the U.S., and the fall road racing schedule will also be winding down over the next 3-4 weeks. One of my favorite all-purpose workouts to assign this time of year, whether you’re shredding grass, locking into a rhythm on the roads, or going back-n-forth between the two is the 5 x 5 Fartlek.
Looking for a challenging but not-too-hard workout to knock out before your next race? Look no further than the 5-4-3-2-1 halftime fartlek. It starts fast and finishes even faster but it will be over before it really starts to grind your gears down.
Yasso 800s are perhaps the most well-known speed workout amongst dedicated marathoners of all levels. The premise is pretty straightforward: If your goal is to run a marathon in, say, 3 hours flat, you should be able to do ten 800m repeats in 3:00 with a 400m jog for recovery between reps. A 2:45 marathoner would run their reps in 2:45, and so on and so forth.
The 1-2-3-2-1-2-3-2-1 fartlek is an "introduction to power endurance" workout that can be used early in a training cycle when an athlete is still building fitness but ready to handle more work. The pickups are relatively short—1-3 minutes in duration—and the intensity—10K effort—should manageable for that chunk of time. The "recovery" intervals, which are run at more of a moderate training pace than a slow jog, are equal in duration to the work interval that preceded it. I like to use a version of this workout every few weeks during a half-marathon or marathon buildup because it forces the athlete to stay engaged the entire time and serves as a nice substitute for a standard threshold session.
These workouts require a lot of focus while improving the physiological and psychological endurance you'll need to race well at longer distances. One of my favorite threshold workouts is a bunch of 1-kilometer repeats with a short rest (30-60 seconds) in between intervals. We start at half-marathon pace—better to start on the side of too slow than too fast—and get a little faster as the workout goes on without going too crazy.
Early season hill workouts help to lay a solid foundation of strength and fitness that will set you up for success the rest of the season, whether you're aiming to run a fast mile, go the distance in an ultramarathon, or tackle something in between.
My favorite workouts are pretty universal in nature, meaning you can go to them whether you're focusing on something as short as a 5K or as long as a marathon. The 3-2-1 Mile Cutdown session fits that bill.
Let's face it: Training for a marathon or half-marathon can get monotonous. Both programs involve lots of sustained running at or around goal race pace. This is a part of the deal, of course, and an important component for developing fitness, dialing in pacing, practicing fueling, and more. That said, it gets repetitive, if not boring, and a lot of people tend to lock in to a set pace and then zone out until it's time to stop. Racing, however, requires you to pay attention, listen to your body, and make adjustments on the fly, which is why I love to assign the In-n-Out Tempo Run from time to time. Not to mention, it's much more interesting than its more classically constructed cousin!
This is a great “getting back into it” session that isn’t meant to be that tough. I still use today for that reason but I’ve also adapted it to serve a different purpose later in the season, which I describe in more detail here.